RA Booklist 2018

My Readers’ Advisory (RA) course begins again soon. For you non-librarians, RA is what we librarians call how we help people find books they want to read, so one big part of the course is analyzing genres/categories of books so students are more knowledgeable and can feel confident recommending a variety of books.

To learn more about genres/categories of books, they’ll read about 20 books this summer, and people always ask me for my booklist, so you’ll find it below. But just know, I don’t make students read every book on this list. They read a couple in each genre/category.

Literary Fiction / Short Stories
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah

Mystery / Thriller
Darkness, Sing Me a Song by David Housewright
Death in the Stacks by Jenn McKinlay
The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

Historical Fiction
Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth
Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

Science Fiction
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
The Power by Naomi Alderman
The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

Romance / Women’s Fiction
A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
From Duke Till Dawn by Eva Leigh
Something Like Happy by Eva Woods

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street by Matt Taibbi
Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening by Manal Al-Sharif
The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond by Michio Kaku

Graphic / Comic
My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Vol. 1 by Emil Ferris
Saga Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
Black Hammer Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 by Jeff Lemire
Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home by Nicole J. Georges

Young Adult
Warcross by Marie Lu
Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Happy reading!


RA Booklist 2017

Soon I’ll begin teaching my Readers’ Advisory Services course again. For you non-librarians, Readers’ Advisory (RA) is what we librarians call how we help people find books they want to read, so I help students figure out how to answer the question, “Can you recommend a good book for me?”

That’s a pretty simplistic definition of RA, because it does include more than just recommending books. However, one big part of the course is analyzing genres/categories of books so students are more knowledgeable and can feel confident recommending a variety of books.

To learn more about genres/categories of books, they read a variety of books in my course, and people always ask me for my booklist, so you’ll find it below. But just know, I don’t make students read every book on this list. They read a couple in each genre/category.

If none of these books appeal to you, don’t worry, I don’t like all of them either. Each of them represents the genre/category in a certain way so students learn about the variety in each group. If you don’t like cozy mysteries you’re not going to like the one under Mystery / Thriller (Mission Impawsible).

Literary Fiction / Short Stories

Wintering by Peter Geye
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Mystery / Thriller

Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley
All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
Mission Impawsible by Krista Davis

Historical Fiction

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

Science Fiction

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers


Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey
The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Romance / Women’s Fiction

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
If I Only Had a Duke by Lenora Bell
I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan
Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni


Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race edited by Jesmyn Ward
Irena’s Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto by Tilar J. Mazzeo
The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father by Kao Kalia Yang

Graphic / Comic

Saga, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq by Sarah Glidden
Patience by Daniel Clowes
The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew

Young Adult Crossover

Naked ’76 by Kevin Brooks
The Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters
American Street by Ibi Zoboi
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

If you want other book recommendations, let me know.

Happy reading!

Readers’ Advisory book lists

Tomorrow my Readers’ Advisory course begins, making this the third time I will teach this course at St. Kate’s. What librarian could say no to teaching a fun course all about books and reading?

Because I try to pick pretty current books, people always ask me for my book lists, the many books my students will read in the course. Here are my lists for last year’s class and this year’s. (Students read two books in each category.)

2014 Book ListShiningGirls

Literary Fiction
Perfect by Rachel Joyce

The Heist by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg – mystery
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes – suspense
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – mystery/detective
Murder, She Barked by Krista Davis – cozy mystery
Cell by Robin Cook – thriller

Historical Fiction
The Lighthouse Road by Peter Geye – late 19th century/early 20th century MN
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – saga/U.S. 19th century
I Shall Be Near To You by Erin Lindsay McCabe – romantic historical/U.S. Civil War
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – WWII Germany/ParisNearToYou
An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris – historical thriller/19th century Paris

The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley – epic fantasy
Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey – mystery
Kabu-Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor – short stories
Written in Red by Anne Bishop – paranormal/urban
Vicious by V. E. Schwab – superhero

Science Fiction
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie – space opera
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North – alternate history
Red Rising by Pierce Brown – dystopian
Influx by Daniel Suarez – techno thriller
Defenders by Will McIntosh – aliens

Graphic Novel
Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang (2 books) – historical/fantasyHellfighters
Calling Dr. Laura by Nicole J. Georges – memoir
Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me by Ellen Fornay – memoir
Attack on Titan 1 by Hajime Isayama – manga
Attack on Titan 2 by Hajime Isayama – manga
The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks – historical
Goddamn This War! by Jacques Tardi – historical
Hinterkind, Vol. 1: The Waking World by Ian Edginton – fantasy
Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian Vaughan – fantasy
Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin by Geoff Johns – superhero
Batman/Superman, Vol. 1: Cross World by Greg Pak – superhero

Romance/Women’s Fiction
The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan – contemporary romance
Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins – contemporary romance
Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare – regency romance
The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle – women’s fiction/issue-driven
The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi – women’s fiction/family fictionHitler

YA Crossover
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick – contemporary
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – fantasy
More Than This by Patrick Ness – science fiction
Cy in Chains by David L. Dudley – historical fiction
All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Gardner Berry – mystery

The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber – narrative nonfiction
Hitler’s Furies by Wendy Lower – history/WWII
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward – memoir
Gulp by Mary Roach – microhistory/science
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull – business

2015 Book List

Rose Gold by Walter Mosley – mystery/private investigator
Murder, She Barked by Krista Davis – cozy mysteryGirlTrain
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – thriller
The Stranger by Harlan Coben – suspense

Literary Fiction
Vacationland by Sarah Stonich
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

Historical Fiction
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – WWII Germany & France
The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman – early 20th century New York
The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman – late 18th century England
West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan – 1930s Hollywood

Romance/Women’s Fiction
A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev – contemporary romanceBollywood
Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare – regency romance
The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes – women’s fiction/historical
Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman – women’s fiction/short stories/historical
The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi – women’s fiction/issue-driven

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab – alternate/parallel worlds
The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley – epic fantasy
Written in Red by Anne Bishop – paranormal/urban
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley – mystery/urban

Science Fiction
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie – space opera
The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey – post-apocalypticBunker
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North – time travel-ish
Lock In by John Scalzi – mystery

Young Adult Crossover
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – contemporary
More Than This by Patrick Ness – science fiction
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley – historical fiction
The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks – psychological thriller
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black – fantasy

Dead Wake by Erik Larson – narrative nonfiction
Why Did the Chicken Cross the World? The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization by Andrew Lawler – microhistory
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward – memoir
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe – science/humorMarch

Graphic Novel
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast – memoir
Ms. Marvel, Vol 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson – superhero
Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder – superhero
The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen – fantasy
Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan – fantasy
March: Book One AND March: Book Two by John Robert Lewis – historical/biographical
Attack on Titan, Vol. 1 AND Vol. 2 by Hajime Isayama – manga

Happy reading!

Ebooks & more

Today was the last day of teaching my short, J term (January term) Ebook Technology course at St. Kate’s. It’s a course designed to give students a basic introduction to ebooks and ereaders in libraries and it was on Saturdays from 8am-1pm. I know. 8am. On a Saturday. And the students always made it on time. Probably because I brought those awesome pastry rings from Panera.

No, really, it was a fun course full of good students where we talked about all the issues libraries have with ebooks.

If you’re a non-library person, do you realize what libraries are dealing with, specifically when it comes to popular fiction and non-fiction?

Libraries pay way more for ebooks than you do. Sometimes 300%+ more than you do.

Or, if we don’t pay more, after the book is checked out 26 times we no longer own it.

Or, no matter how many times the book is checked out, after one year we no longer own it.

To read more about these publisher restrictions and more, this Forbes article sums is up perfectly – You’ll Need a PhD To Make Sense of the Pricing Schemes Publishers Impose on Libraries.

There are a lot of other issues we went over in my course, like what ebooks look like in school, public and academic libraries, consortial deals, alternatives from libraries, ebook and ereader statistics and future predictions, and more. My students then gave reports on items we could only touch upon, like accessibility issues, DRM, and self-published ebooks, and they did a great job.

With such a short course, everything is just a basic introduction, hopefully giving the students enough background for when they dive into a job or have a discussion about ebooks. One student questioned why this course isn’t semester-long, because there is definitely enough to talk about, many things I could never get to in such a short course, but with the rapidly changing landscape of ebooks a semester-long course would probably be outdated by the end of it.

So Ebook Technology is done (well, I still have to grade) and now I’m moving onto my next endeavor or two.

The first: I’ll be doing a There’s an App for That course in public libraries around the metro. It’s a two-hour course for public library patrons focusing on free apps for business. I’ll be doing this about ten different times in the next few months and I’m really excited to present this information to public library patrons, which is new for me.

The second: I think I may be teaching the Readers’ Advisory Services course at St. Kate’s this summer. I taught this course last year at St. Kate’s and it was so much fun. What book-loving librarian doesn’t like to talk books? I need to start reading a ton of books to figure out my booklist.

I keep saying yes to things because I just love having these experiences. Some days I’m tired; some days I question why I keep saying yes. But overall, I love learning and trying new things and these have been great experiences. Remind me I said that if I complain about being too busy.

Green means go

Previously I talked about how I was going to start doing bad things to good characters in my writing after taking a class at The Loft. I’ve since taken a couple more of the short, two-hour classes and I discovered another good tip: green means go, red means stop and revise.

What this refers to is scene versus summary. After you finish your first draft, print it out and highlight all the active scenes in green and all the summaries in red. You should have more green than red. Brian Malloy, the teaching artist for this Fiction Basics course, said he likes to have green, green, green, red, green, green, green, red, etc.

I do sometimes suffer from too much babbling summary, so this idea of highlighting it to see it first hand is really great. I have a feeling there will be a lot of red when I’m done, but I’ll deal with it then. The first draft is supposed to be bad.

According to Malloy, I probably also suffer from too much dialogue and not enough “stage direction,” what he calls the “he said” and “she said” text after someone speaks. My dialogue tends to look like Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” which Malloy hates. He wants more “he said,” “she said,” and stage direction showing her getting frustrated or fidgety. I still can’t believe Malloy hates “Hills Like White Elephants” because I love that dialogue, but I can get past him being wrong. And don’t think I’m comparing my dialogue to Hemingway’s. I wish. I just don’t like all the “he said” and “she said” stuff. I skip over them when I’m reading, so why include them at all? I can understand adding more stage direction about a facial expression or someone moving a certain way or what they’re seeing as they’re talking, so I suppose I could add more of that.

What my stage direction will not look like will be the crap I read in Dead Until Dark, the first book in the Sookie Stackhouse series (a.k.a. the “True Blood” books). I have been a fan of the HBO’s “True Blood” for awhile now, although this season sucked (except for Eric reading in the last episode, am I right, ladies?), so I figured I’d try the books. The books are awful, or at least this first book is. It’s not written well and the stage direction is full of adverbs: “Bill said gently” or “I said cautiously” or “I said wearily” or “I said, very quietly but very sharply.” Stephen King would hate this book. I recently read an article quoting King’s crusade against the adverb: “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.” He basically says using adverbs is based in fear. Fear of making the audience understand what your character is doing or meaning with his words when you should be relying on the words themselves.

So I could add more stage direction, minus the bad adverbs, and I need to make sure my writing includes more action scenes and less summary. I learned more at the writing classes I took, but these things were on my mind as I was working through a scene that included a lot of dialogue. More on the classes in the future, but for now, back to writing.

Reading list from my RA class

I recently finished teaching the course Readers’ Advisory Services to library science graduate students at St. Catherine University. I have no idea if I’ll teach the course again, but it was such a good opportunity and I loved interacting with future librarians. I really had a blast planning for the class and teaching it, even if it added a lot to my work load. And what librarian doesn’t love talking about books?

For you non-librarians, readers’ advisory is what we librarians do when we suggest fiction and nonfiction titles to you. We listen to the types of things you like and suggest readalikes you may enjoy. Readers’ advisory also includes promoting books and reading through indirect means, like book displays, book lists, book clubs, promotion on social media, author events, other book-related events, etc.

In the course, we looked at many different genres of books, we read a lot of books, and we did some fun things to showcase indirect readers’ advisory. I had an author speaker come in and we did some other events in the classroom, like a murder mystery and Ready Player One Jeopardy.

But since a big part of the course was students reading books in all different genres to further expand what they know about those genres, my friends have been asking me for my reading list for a long time now. You’ll find the list below, but please know:

  • Your favorite book may not be on the list and you may think it should’ve been. I know this. I’ve heard it. Your book is probably fabulous, but I read a lot of books trying to find the ones I thought might be best for the class, and I went back and forth for months before the list was finalized. I wanted books that represented the genre in certain ways, that were semi-popular (sometimes really popular) or had popular authors, that represented both male and female authors, that were diverse so we weren’t just reading a bunch of white authors/characters, and that were fairly recent (except with graphic novels).
  • I do not love every book on this list. I certainly love a bunch of them, but I also included books that I loathed but that represented good things about the genre. So that’s why you’ll see Code Name Verity on the list which I’ve been very vocal about hating. (I’m also well aware that I am in the minority on that. I don’t understand why you loved it just as much as you don’t understand why I hated it.)

With those caveats being said, here ya go. (And no, the students didn’t have to read ALL these books. I wouldn’t have made it out alive if I made them do that.)

Literary Fiction

  • Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Historical Fiction

  • The Night Birds by Thomas Maltman
  • Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
  • Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
  • A Good American by Alex George
  • The Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison

Science Fiction/Fantasy

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey
  • The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin
  • Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
  • Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi
  • Blackout by Connie Willis


  • Trickster’s Point by William Kent Krueger
  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
  • Stay Close by Harlan Coben
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Kill Shot by Vince Flynn
  • Catch Me by Lisa Gardner

Romance/Women’s Lives/Gentle Reads

  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
  • Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
  • The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larson
  • Ada’s Rules: A Sexy, Skinny Novel by Alice Randall
  • The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart
  • Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn

Young Adult / Adult Crossover

  • I Am J by Cris Beam
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Graphic Novel

  • The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
  • The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone
  • Watchmen by Alan Moore
  • The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  • American Vampire Volume 1 by Scott Snyder & Stephen King


  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
  • Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield
  • Let’s Pretend this Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang

The students gave reports and read books in other genres that we didn’t cover as a whole class, so the class did hear about more genres than just what is listed here.

Happy reading!

That writing thing

It’s been a long time since I’ve written any poetry or fiction. Having three jobs – a full-time job, part-time job, and teaching a couple grad classes to library science students – tends to slow down the creative writing process.

Back to just the full- and part-time jobs, today I took a Fiction Basics class at The Loft taught by Brian Malloy. The class was only two hours long and was about the five parts of a story – Exposition, Rising Action, Crisis/Turning Point, Falling Action, and Resolution. We talked about what goes in each part and then we did an exercise at the end where we started the Exposition and then passed the papers to the right until the Rising Action and Crisis/Turning Point were filled in by other class members.

That exercise was both cool and terrifying. It was cool because you could see what other classmates thought may happen in your story, but it was terrifying for that exact same reason.

I was not excited to fill in the Rising Action and Crisis/Turning Point for other people. I think this is where I lack the most in fiction, which is a really bad thing and what I need to work on. I think I’m good at Exposition, starting a world, creating characters, but then I get tangled in what they should do and where the story should go and I find myself starting a different story. It’s a problem. People have told me that I should introduce all the different characters from all the different stories I’ve started and see where it goes.

But I get stuck on what my characters should do. I’ve read a lot of different things from authors, and most of them say things like: make your characters do things they wouldn’t typically do, put your characters through hell, and have them end up far from where they were at the beginning of the story.

Malloy basically said this today, too. He talked about how the Falling Action part of the story is now the new normal, different from the normal in the Exposition. It’s what’s happening after the Crisis you have put your character through and it should be something that has changed them, but whatever that change is is up to you, the author, the god of this world.

So I have to start putting my characters through hell. Maybe some of them will literally go to hell, who knows, but I’m going to start doing bad things to good people.